Rusney Castillo is the latest addition to the list of Cuban players who have donned a Red Sox uniform. And it all started with Eusebio Gonzalez. Gonzalez has the distinction of being the first ever Latino player for the Red Sox, briefly joining the team in July of 1918. He played in three games and had only seven plate appearances. Gonzalez was the first of many young Cuban players to get a shot at Fenway Park, including Mike Herrera (1925-1926). But the gap between these pioneers was large. It wasn’t until the 1950s and 1960s that Cuban players became a regular fixture on the Sox’ roster with the likes of Mike Fornieles (1957-1963), Roman Mejias (1963-1964) and Jose Tartabull (1966-1968). The Boston Braves may have been more willing to give Cuban players a shot. Mike Gonzaelz (1 game, 1912) and Dolf Luque (1914-1915) were both pioneers for their time. Luque played 20 seasons in the majors.
Years of Red Sox service: 1918
Birthplace: La Habana, Cuba
Highlight: In Gonzalez’s first ever major league game, July 26, 1918, he recorded a triple in his only at-bat. He later scored on the play.
Here’s a look at some more recent Cuban players that have either worn a Red Sox uniform or have ties to the organization.
Arrojo, a right-handed pitcher, defected from the Cuban national team just before the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. He signed with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 1997, becoming an all-star and rookie of the year in 1998. He was traded to the Red Sox via the Colorado Rockies in the middle of the 2000 season, playing out the rest of his career in Boston.
Years of Red Sox service: 2000-2002
Birthplace: Santa Clara, Cuba
Highlight: In 2000, he went 5-2 in 13 starts for the Sox with a 5.05 ERA after being traded from the Rockies. He had a career-low WHIP in 2001, 1.190, after being moved to the bullpen.
Born in Cuba, Canseco’s family immigrated to the United States when he and his identical twin brother Ozzie were just infants. He had already made a name for himself in Major League Baseball by the time he reached Boston, winning rookie of the year (1986) and American League MVP (1988) with the Oakland A’s. The slugger, and admitted steroid user, spent two seasons with the Red Sox after a stint with the Texas Rangers.
Years of Red Sox service: 1995-1996
Birthplace: Havana, Cuba
Highlight: Belted out 28 home runs, 82 RBI, and 22 doubles for the Sox in 1996, his last season with the team.
Cespedes and his family defected from Cuba in 2011 as he pursued his baseball career, establishing residency in the Dominican Republic so he could be a free agent. After signing with the Oakland A’s and playing two and a half stellar seasons, he was traded to the Red Sox officially July 31.
Years of Red Sox service: 2014-present
Birthplace: Capechuela, Granma, Cuba
Highlight: Through Aug. 27, Cespedes has had 20 RBIs with the Red Sox and four home runs. Those 20 RBIs lead the team since Aug. 2, his first game in Boston.
The Cuban native was primarily a minor league player in his professional career, getting called up for four games with the Red Sox in the 2002 season.
Years of Red Sox service: 2002
Birthplace: San Jose de las Lajas, Mayabeque, Cuba
Highlight: In 14 seasons in the minors, Diaz made his professional debut with the Red Sox in 2002 and promptly hit an RBI double in a 7-5 win over the Colorado Rockies. He went 2 for 7 in those four games, including a home run.
The San Diego Padres catcher was born in Cuba and became a United States citizen while a high school junior in Miami Springs, Fla.
Years of Red Sox service: None
Birthplace: Havana, Cuba
Highlight: The Sox drafted Grandal in 27th round of the 2007 draft. But Grandal opted to attend college at Miami. After three seasons, he re-entered the drafted and was selected 12th overall by the Cincinnati Reds.
Iglesias defected from the Cuban national baseball team while in Canada in 2008. He established residency in the Dominican Republic before signing a free agent contract with the Red Sox in September 2009.
Years of Red Sox service: 2011-2013
Birthplace: La Habana, Cuba
Highlight: Despite being one of the team’s top defensive prospects and a burgeoning star, the Red Sox traded Iglesias to the Detroit Tigers in July 2013. Most notably, he had an 18-game hitting streak in 2013 for the Sox.
Perez, a 2000 inductee into the baseball hall of fame, will go down in history as one of the iconic players for the Cincinnati Reds’ Big Red Machine. He was able to immigrate to the United States before political relations between the two countries disintegrated. He became an American citizen in 1971.
Years of Red Sox service: 1980-1982
Birthplace: Ciego de Avila, Cuba
Highlight: Perez was a seven-time all-star by the time he reached Boston in 1980. In his first year with the team, he hit 25 home runs and drove in 105 runs with a .275 batting average, .320 on base percentage, and had a .786 OPS.
The esteemed former pitcher of the Red Sox, and member of the team’s hall of fame, played his first six seasons in Cleveland. But even before Tiant burst onto the major league scene, the Cuban native was able to travel freely between the United States and his home country until the turmoil of the Bay of Pigs in 1961. He didn’t return to Cuba for 46 years, filming a documentary “The Lost Son of Havana.’’
Years of Red Sox service: 1971-1978
Birthplace: Mariano, Cuba
Highlight: In his eight seasons for the Red Sox, Tiant regained his form after two devastating injuries. He tallied three 20-win seasons and and 18-win season while making two all-star appearances.
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